“Children are the most desirable opponents at scrabble as they are both easy to beat and fun to cheat.”–Fran Lebowitz
By Chris Perrin
Knowing how to play Internet Scrabble can be useful and fun, because sometimes it’s hard to find another player whose schedule allows them to commit to sitting down in front of a board and playing a full game at the same time as you. Plus if you are really good (or conversely really bad) it’s hard to find someone with your skill level who can play the same time as you. However, like many hobbies, the world wide web has delivered an answer: Internet Scrabble.
There’s no mystery as to what Internet Scrabble is. Internet Scrabble is when one to four people play some version of the game of Scrabble using the Internet or email instead of an actual Scrabble board. The most common forms of Internet Scrabble are exact copies of the offline game where players use an online board to lay tiles, try for score multipliers, and earn the most points. Then, because of the traction of the brand name “Scrabble” and the popularity of word games, there have also been a number of games created in the spirit of the original, but with a challenge all their own.
Each of these different Internet Scrabble games has their different strengths and weaknesses. The games that offer a direct way to play Scrabble over the web generally fall into one of two categories: free and pay. The best part about the free games is you can play for no charge. In this category, you will not find many sites due to licensing restrictions. In fact, if you look, you may only find two different services the Internet Scrabble Club, The Pixel Pit, and Pogo.com. Beware sites that say that have free Scrabble, normally what they have are Scrabble clones and trial downloads of the full Scrabble game.
Both of these sites are hosted outside of the United States, which means they can nearly skirt any sort of intellectual property issues which have shut down other Internet Scrabble providers. The not so great part is that you often pay for what you get. For instance, the interface for Internet Scrabble Club (a downloadable Java application called WordBiz is sort of clunky, can be slow, and may be daunting to new beginners, even Internet savvy new beginners. The Pixel Pit, on the other hand, uses email to play games, which means games can stretch out for long periods of time. Pogo might be the best of three sites, however, at last check, their site was not functional.
After the free versions of Internet Scrabble come the pay-to-play versions. There are a number of these games out on the Internet, all of varying quality. A few sites which feature fee games include RealArcade.com, GameHouse.com, Yahoo.com, etc. while Hasbro.com has a Scrabble application for the iPhone. Most of those sites are all peddling the same game, just different sites from which to purchase it.
In the end, if you want a game which captures the real thing with the board, the tiles, etc. the choice is yours. If you think you can master the interface of Internet Scrabble Club or if Pogo.com works for you, the free route is probably the best. If not, purchase it from a reputable source, install it, and have fun.
Now, if you want the Scrabble experience, but don’t necessarily need to have the exact game, you are in luck. There are a number of different sites that offer games based on Scrabble, but that are not the exact game.
The above mentioned Yahoo.com and Hasbro.com as well as Bing.com, WorldWinner.com, and others feature games which take the same basic premise: letters on tiles must be arranged to form words and take them in different directions. For instance, Hasbro.com has a Flash game based on their Upwords board game which turns Scrabble into a game in two dimensions. WorldWinner.com goes one better and features a game called Scrabble cubes which puts the Scrabble game in three dimensions.
The advantage to these types of games is that they stretch your word usage and are challenging. Therefore, for fans of word challenge games, these Scrabble variants are free, easy-to-use and may satisfy that craving for Scrabble. However, they are not Scrabble and their strategy may be wildly different.
Lastly, there is a final category of games which are in included in the discussion about “Internet Scrabble” more by popular acclaim than because they actually are Scrabble. These are the various word games that exist on the Internet including: Bookworm, TextTwist, Chicktionary (because of chickens, not because of anything derogatory), and Fall Flexicon. They enter the discussion because if you search around the Internet for ways to play Internet Scrabble, sites with these games invariable pop up and offer an online Scrabble experience.
These games are an additional step removed from the types of games like WorldWinner.com’s Scrabble Cubes because they abandon the Scrabble marketing in favor of their own rules and challenges. However, because they are free and they do stress a good lexicon and good word strategy, they may satisfy one’s urge to play Scrabble. (Frankly, some of them are good enough that players may want to play them just because they are fun, not because of any association.)
On the other hand, Scrabble purists may not like that a game involving letters on chickens gets brought up in the same search as a way to play Scrabble online. That is fine, too. Those players have other options, both free and pay-to-play. Either way, though, everyone should be aware those games are out there and that many are masquerading as free ways to play the game of Scrabble.
Whether you decide to take the challenge of mastering Internet Scrabble Club’s interface or you pay the ten to twenty dollars to pay for an officially licensed digital version, there are many ways to enjoy the real, honest-to-goodness version of the game. For those just looking to have a little fun and use a few big words along the way, the internet has been gracious enough to supply several variations and word games which are a lot of fun, too.